Imagine if Jesus had been born a couple of thousand years later, not in the Middle East but in Middleton Stoney.
I’m guessing that he would then have played cricket for us, Middleton Stoney Cricket Club. And because Jesus was brought up by Joseph to work with wood, their modern-day family business could well have been Joseph & Son, Bat-Makers.
In our world, it could then have been the Cricket Tea at Cana where his mother, Mary, thought supplies were running out but Jesus saved the day (John, 2.1-11). It wouldn’t have been a home fixture, since running out is not a problem for our teas, although it is for some of our batsmen.
The first hint of a cricket tea in the Bible is much earlier, in the First Book of Kings, where Elijah was revived by a scone. The prophet Elijah was in despair, much like Mark Ford-Langstaff after his duck against the Rainmen in 2017: (First Kings 19:4-8)
'Yahweh,' he said, 'I have had enough…
'He himself went on … a … journey, and sitting under a bush wished he were dead.
Then he lay down and went to sleep.
Then all of a sudden an angel touched him and said, 'Get up and eat.'
He looked round, and there at his head was a scone baked on hot stones, and a jar of water…
So he got up and ate and drank, and strengthened by that food he walked ...'
The Old Testament foretells of cricketing folk elsewhere, as when a different Joseph wore a colourful, striped garment, the others were jealous (Genesis, 37.3) and the idea of a cricket blazer was born.
In the New Testament, we can imagine how the miracles and parables might be translated into our era and our club. For an example of a miracle, there was the problem of his fishermen friends not getting a catch or a decent total until Jesus was among them, said to put up the nets and suddenly the scorebook showed 153 (John, 21.11).
As for parables, Jesus spoke about sowing seed (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8) on (Middleton) Stoney ground and he captured the attitude of Middleton Stoney players perfectly in the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, when those who had been labouring under the hot sun asked, ‘Why, Lord, do the latecomers get to bat as high up as us?’ (Matthew 20, 1-16.)
And for Christmas, it’s the gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh - gold ducks, frankly-incensed batsmen when given out LBW and people bowling like Muralitharan - which give rise to alternative carol lyrics about what we can offer (Matthew 2, 1-12):
We three Tims of Middleton are
Barbecuing, or behind the bar,
Fielding, waiting, Moorman mounting
One more century score …’
Thank you to all the stars of our club and of this church. As cricketers and as human beings, in and out of season, we ask God,
‘Guide us to thy perfect light’.
When Mark, out for a duck v Rainmen,
echoed the Prophet Elijah (who never got a duck v Rainmen),
saying, ‘I have had enough’, then ‘lay down and went to sleep’
We three Tims Of Middleton Are